Self-evaluation is affected by facial attractiveness, particularly in females, and may be related to self-esteem. Self-face evaluation is relative to the attractiveness of others ("contrast effect"). In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we examined both the neural correlates of self-face evaluation using the contrast effect and a neural relationship between self-face evaluation and self-esteem. We prepared the following three types of "target faces": one's own face (S), a close friend's face (F), and an unfamiliar face (O). They were randomly intermingled among same-sex unfamiliar foils during two block-types. Our intention was to evoke positive evaluations of target faces using unattractive foils in one block-type, and negative evaluations using attractive foils in the other. The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) exhibited greater activation from the positive modulation for S than for O. Activation in these regions was positively correlated with self-esteem and showed the same tendency between S and F. PCC and VTA, which have been implicated in the processing of self-relatedness and reward, respectively, might play a role in the processing of positive self-face evaluation as self-referential stimuli and social rewards, respectively. These results suggested that the PCC and the VTA are the neural correlates of positive self-face evaluation, and that there is a neural relationship between self-face evaluation and self-esteem. The positive evaluation of a close friend's face might be perceived and processed in the same way as one's own face.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Social cognition